Program that builds ramps for disabled people is 'life-changing' for Puebloans

·3 min read
Izzy Vigil, right, rolls down the new ramp to his home for the first time, followed by Kierra Livingston, on June 20.
Izzy Vigil, right, rolls down the new ramp to his home for the first time, followed by Kierra Livingston, on June 20.

For wheelchair users and Puebloans Kierrali Livingston and Izzy Vigil, a new ramp that was recently built to the entrance of their home has been “life-changing.”

Prior to it being built, the pair had not been able to leave their residence for more than a year. The cost of building a new ramp built was just too high.

That changed on June 20 after the Directing Others To Services “Ramp Up” program built for them what they couldn’t afford.

“I felt institutionalized," Livingston said. “When we get out, I won't know what to do. I'll get to take my dogs for walks. I get to leave my home.”

The pair's first contact with the D.O.T.S program — a partnership between local service agencies that aims to grant individuals access to medical and mental health services — was in November 2021.

Livingston had to go to the hospital and the only way to do that, she said, was to call 911.

"I called, and the first guy that came, he was mad,” she recalled. “He said, ‘Why don't you have a ramp? If there's a fire, there's no way to get out of here.’"

That firefighter then referred them D.O.T.S program.

More: Pueblo's Reading Pays program returns, giving youths a chance to earn $100 for reading

Along with building a ramp to allow better access in and out of their home, the program connected Livingston to home health services and helped her gain access to long-term Medicaid.

"When I got connected with D.O.T.S., everything changed," Livingston said.

The Ramp Up program is a partnership between the D.O.T.S. Program, Habitat for Humanity and Thornton Medical that helps address accessibility for individuals with disabilities.

The program was created in 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic practically shut it down for the better part of two years, said D.O.T.S. community risk reduction coordinator Kelly Firestone.

As impacts of the pandemic continue to decrease, the program is seeking new donors to help those in need.

Kierra Livingston, left, and Izzy Vigil are pictured with their dog Pablo in front of their newly built ramp.
Kierra Livingston, left, and Izzy Vigil are pictured with their dog Pablo in front of their newly built ramp.

"A lot of people call 911 when they're ill, and we go in and ask, ‘Why are you calling 911? When was the last time you went to your physician's office?" Firestone said. "And they say, ‘I can't get out of my house. I can't get down the two or three steps that I have, so I don't go."

Being isolated and cramped up can cause depression, anxiety and other mental health issues, Firestone said, especially in people who are unable to get their medications.

"Medicaid will only pay for a ramp if you have long-term Medicaid," she said. “So we started seeing that it was a big problem. And we were like, ‘Well, there are no other resources for ramps, so let's figure it out.’"

The program is primarily funded through donations and grants. The prefabricated aluminum ramp built for Livingston and Vigil was paid for with a grant of just under $10,000 from United Way and constructed by Thornton Medical.

MORE: Park rangers nominated for lifesaving awards after rescuing 11 people on Lake Pueblo

D.O.T.S. is a partnership between the Pueblo Fire Department, Parkview Medical Center and the nonprofit Pueblo Triple Aim.

For those interested in connecting with the program, a referral form can be filled out on the D.O.T.S. webpage. 

Questions, comments, or story tips? Contact Justin at Jreutterma@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter @jayreutter1. 

This article originally appeared on The Pueblo Chieftain: D.O.T.S program builds 'life-changing' ramps for disabled Puebloans